Today, we live in a knowledge society where entrepreneurship is as much about having a sound business plan as it is about protecting your intellectual property (IP). With Asia becoming not only the world’s manufacturing hub but also its biggest market, it is pertinent to find a suitable country in the continent with robust IP laws. Here, Singapore fits the bill perfectly.

This is because Singapore Government recognizes and underscores the fact that intellectual property is an invaluable asset in shaping a knowledge-based economy. So much so that in its recent Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum has ranked Singapore as having the best IP protection in Asia.

Singapore’s Ministry of Law, the nodal agency for IP protection in the city-state, “is committed to help create an environment that is conducive for the development of IP, which covers patents, trademarks, copyright, registered designs, plant varieties protection, geographical indications, trade secrets and layout-design of integrated circuits”.

There are various types of intellectual property that are recognized and can be registered in Singapore. These include: patents, registered designs, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets. Read on to find the differences between them, and which are relevant to your business.

Patents

In Singapore, patentees are granted a limited monopoly if their application is successful that will last for 20 years. However, this requires the applicant to submit specifications/blueprints for their patent which will be published and accessible by the general public.

Registered Designs

As opposed to design patents, Singapore uses ‘registered designs’ in order to protect the outward appearance of a product, without regard for function or mechanism. If a company were to release a new phone for example, they would require a patent to protect any new technologies, such as new types of sensors, and a registered design in order to protect the appearance of that phone to avoid copies with poorer specifications.

Copyright

In Singapore, this form of protection can also extend to ‘useful’ products which cannot be protected through patent or registered design.

All forms of copyright protection will be applied for a fixed period. This varies depending on the type of copyright work. For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, it may span 70 years from the year end of the author’s death and for broadcast and cable programs, it is 50 years from the year end of the making of the program.

Trade Secrets

Confidential information and technical know-how are considered ‘trade secrets’ and are protected in Singapore, primarily through reputation and goodwill as well as common law.

However, there are neither registration procedures nor statutory legislation with regard to this kind of intellectual property. The use of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) is recommended, along with general good practices – for instance, limiting the number of people who come into contact with the sensitive information.

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